Mayor Randall Simonson will attend the next meeting of the Scandia Park and Recreation Committee on May 7, after the April 2 meeting didn’t go so well.
“I will talk about how meetings are to be conducted, and how people are to be treated,” Simonson said.
Five members of the audience addressed the council during a work session on Tuesday, April 10 to discuss the tone of the last park committee meeting.
Sonia Borg, a guest at the April 2 meeting, said she was cut short and made to feel stupid by comments from the committee Chair Alex Bildeaux.
“Alex is knowledgeable, has many skills, and puts in a lot of work,” she said, but “the meeting wasn’t flowing very well. I suggest he use a more positive approach.”
Park and Recreation Vice Chair Mike White recommended the committee be disbanded. White said two local groups, the Scandia-Marine Lions and the Friends of Scandia Parks and Trails, have offered to donate money to the group, but “Alex will not work with them. He’s got one goal in mind: Lilleskogen. He’s gonna do the work by himself.”
City Council member Sally Swanson, a former park and recreation member and now the council liaison to that group, brought the issue to the council.
Asked by Schneider “What do you want to happen?” Swanson replied, “Maybe remove the chair. He hasn’t been at four of the last five meetings,” she said. (Park and recreation committee minutes show that Bildeaux was present at the February, March and April meetings.)
Park and recreation member Dan Lee disagreed with White and Swanson. He said the committee is on task and a lot of positive things are happening.
“The answer is to stay with Robert’s Rules,” Lee said. “Address the chairman. Do it all through the chair, not individuals talking to individuals. Be a little bit more formal,” he said.
Lee also suggested that a personality conflict between Bildeaux and Swanson was an issue. “Sally is passionate about her job. Alex is passionate about his job. Everyone was so emotional. Both of you could have been more eloquent,” he said.
Speaking of the progress at Lilleskogen Park, Lee said trees and stumps will be removed this month, and the project hasn’t needed any money yet. “You can’t build a $200,000 park on $8,000. You have to go slow. I think we’re doing great,” he concluded.
Matt Rasmussen, who has served on the park committee since 2006, also supported the chair but said he has mixed feelings. “Alex has done a good job,” he said, “but I was embarrassed to be a park board member last week with our three guests.”
City Administrator Anne Hurlburt normally attends park committee meetings but missed April because of a family medical issue. “The culture is extremely informal,” she said. “The agenda gets ignored. It’s a very inefficient and frustrating way to run a meeting.”
Hurlburt said little preparation is done for the meetings, and multiple conversations occur at one time. The group has difficulty getting minutes written. She suggested the committee use handouts to focus on the public meeting process, and to set ground rules, for example, one person talking at once.
Park and recreation member Tom Vogen criticized Swanson, saying her role should be different now that she is the council liaison.
“She doesn’t allow Alex to run the meeting,” Vogen said. “Alex wanted to go back and look at the minutes. I was comfortable with the delay. For Sally to threaten ‘I can have you removed’ was unprofessional,” he said.
The city has no established guidelines on the role of the council liaison.
That topic will also be discussed at the May 7 park and recreation meeting.
Both Rasmussen and Simonson said they would like Swanson to continue as council liaison to the committee.
In a phone conversation after the meeting, Bildeaux agreed that the park and recreation meetings may have become too informal and said they will change.
“I have no animosity towards anybody,” Bildeaux said. “I’m definitely gonna continue as chair. I was voted in by the park board. We’re getting so many things done,” he added.